Product Listing Ads: The Power of Segmentation

This is a guest post by James Kelly, Senior SEM Analyst of National Positions.

Product Listing Ads have grown immensely in popularity over the last year and many articles have been written detailing the importance of getting them live. At this point the real question is how to maximize exposure and profitability for your ecommerce marketing campaign.

Feed and bid optimization is the first place that many people look. Both of these are of critical importance, but I find that advertisers spend so much time worrying about these issues that the actual campaign structure is often ignored. The decision on how to structure and segment your PLA campaigns will dictate your ability to analyze and optimize the campaigns over time.

Google provides us with the ability to segment PLA’s by product type, condition, brand, ID or custom fields within your feed (adwords_grouping & adwords_labels). The first pitfall that many advertisers encounter is choosing conflicting segments, so that any single product could have as many as five or six bids coming from different targets. While campaigns built in this way may appear incredibly detailed, they are unwieldy and are difficult to manage effectively.

Targeting

With this in mind, a good first step is choosing a primary targeting method. Each product will inevitably have multiple targets, but there should be one targeting method that you intend to use for the majority of your bid optimization that will have higher bids relative to your secondary targeting methods. The idea here is to try to remove as much of the conflicting bids as possible so that you can actually dial things up when they are converting, or down when they are not. If a single product has six bids and no rhyme or reason as to which one is highest, it will be very difficult to do something as simple as lower the bid on that product by 50% without also lowering the bid on all related products with similar targets.

My primary targeting method of choice is the adwords_labels field filled with a unique ID for each product. In this case, I have the ability to control my bid for individual products to avoid missed opportunities and wasteful spending. Targeting each product individually can allow greater levels of control, but it can be difficult to account for new products or changes in the feed, which is why additional targeting is required.

Secondary targeting methods can be thought of as catch-alls, whose main purpose is to pick up any products that have not been picked up by your primary targets. I generally use a product type or brand as the secondary targeting method depending on what makes more sense for the particular client. The secondary target must have artificially low bids so that they do not overlap any of your primary targeting. I have heard clients express concerns that the bids are too low, but with proper execution, the secondary targets should be more of a safety net than an active target. If you notice that a secondary target is receiving significant amounts of traffic, this should be a sign to take a look at your primary targets to see what is leaking through. To err on the safe side, I also use an all products target with a much lower bid (sometimes a penny bid) to ensure that I have basic coverage for new products that may not have other targets.

Campaign Structure

Once the various levels of targeting have been sorted out, the last remaining question is how to structure the targets into campaigns, ad groups and targets. With a smaller product count, I typically create a unique ad group for each product containing my primary targeting method in a single campaign. Secondary targets will also have unique ad groups so that all bids can be managed from the ad groups tab.

Accounts that have tens of thousands of products will more than likely need additional structure in place, if nothing else to avoid the 20k ad group per campaign limit. There are two approaches for breaking down these larger catalogs. The first is to create multiple campaigns (possibly broken down by product type or brand) so that you can keep your bids at the ad group level. The second option is to create ad groups for each product type/ brand with targets for each individual product within that ad group. Product level bid optimization would need to be done on the target level in this second option.

No matter how you decide to segment your PLA campaigns, it is important to have a primary targeting method in mind to avoid overlapping bids. Structure provides control over the bids, which will give you the ability to affect your positioning and profitability in the long run.

James Kelly, author of this blog post, is an Ecommerce Channel Manager and Senior SEM Analyst for National Positions, an industry leading internet marketing company with over 1,000 clients around the globe including Wal-Mart, Land Rover, Club Med and Samsung. The National Positions SEM department in particular has been experiencing rapid growth by providing significant revenue increases for many small and medium size businesses.

Which Super Hero Would Your Online Marketing Strategy Be? The PPC Optimization Edition

Pay per click (PPC) ads aren’t successful over night, and as you know from our last post in this series, a few online advertising strategies or super heroic powers can be used to quickly optimize your campaigns to profitability. If you thought optimization strategies for PPC campaigns were boring and menial tasks think again, because you might be using these extraordinary powers in your daily routine.

The PPC Optimization Edition

Here are a few of our favorite X-Men characters and their powers that can be used for optimizing PPC campaigns. Tell us in the comments section below which character’s powers has given you the most performance lift when optimizing campaigns.

Wolverine: Campaign Segmentation

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The Super Power: Wolverine possesses retractable claws within each forearm. They can cut through practically any known solid material, segmenting metals, woods, and even stone into pieces. His abilities are similar to campaign segmentation, which is the process of breaking up your campaigns by network, location, or device. Wolverine’s ability to heal from any wound, disease or toxin at an accelerated rate is just another signal of proof that sharpening Wolverine’s powers of campaign segmentation can rapidly bring your poorly performing campaigns back from the dead.

How to Own It: Segmenting campaigns by network is the easiest way to exercise your inner Wolverine. Search and Display are two very different types of advertising channels, and should be measured and accounted for differently. To segment an existing campaign, you can visit the AdWords campaign settings and edit the “Type” of campaign. In Bing Ads, it’s a bit trickier to segment by network, but it absolutely can be done at the Ad group level under Advanced Settings in the “Ad distribution” field. If you’re already segmenting by network, wield your Wolverine claws with a more advanced strategy: segment by location or device. When segmenting by location or device, this allows you to create more relevant ad copy for the location or ad extensions for the particular device and gives you the control to set bids higher for strategic markets or devices with smaller screens.

Storm: Dayparting

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The Super Power: Storm is one of the most influential mutants on the planet, with the power to manipulate the weather. Her precise control over the atmosphere allows her to create special weather effects such has whirlwinds, humidity, precipitation, lighting, and atmospheric pressure. Just like the weather, your ads’ performance changes throughout the day. In order to control that performance in your favor, create a Storm moment with dayparting.

How to Own It: In order for this power to work in your favor, you’ll need to have some data from your existing ads or keywords so you can see what hours of the days are getting the most clicks or acquiring the most conversions. To analyze the hour by hour trends in AdWords, go to the Dimensions tab at the Ad group level and make sure to open the View: Hour of day report. In Bing Ads, you can view the same report by visiting the Reports tab, and selecting the Show: Hour of day report. Now that you’re equipped with the right data to control the weather of your ads, create a Storm by adjusting the Schedule settings at the Ad group level.

Morph: Dynamic Creative

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The Super Power: Morph, as his name suggests, is a shape shifter and can morph his physical appearance and voice to resemble any person or object he chooses. His ability to alter his form is similar to the way advertisers can use dynamic creatives to instantly change the ad copy for more relevancy to the audience. Morph also has limited telepathic abilities, allowing him the ability to read minds, similar to the way dynamic keyword insertion can automatically insert the keyword that’s on a person’s mind.

How to Own It: In order to perfect the powers of Morph, you’ll need to use dynamic creatives. You can either use dynamic text or dynamic keyword insertion for your ads. The way dynamic text works if you want to make changes to many of your ads without having to edit them all of them manually. Dynamic keyword insertion is when your ad automatically uses the keyword that was queried in your ad. There are many types of dynamic insertion tags you can use in your headlines, description lines, and display URLs, such as {Keyword:text}, {param1:text}, and {param2:text}. If you’re not already Morph-ing your ads and want to find out how powerful and efficient this strategy can be for your business, Morph your ads and use dynamic creatives in AdWords or Bing Ads.

Have you used these super powers when running your online ad campaigns? Let me know in the comments which character’s powers you’ve used in the past, and how you were able to own it to optimize your campaigns.